Hale and the Great Train Robbery

2009-07-30 00:00

MIKE Hale, the Pietermaritzburg insurance broker who has skipped the country with millions in funds meant to be invested for clients, once claimed to have swum across the English Channel with the loot from Britain’s so-called Great Train Robbery.

Hale told the sister-in-law of one of his ex-wives the story about the train robbery loot.

“He said he had been training for a swimming [competition] and he claimed that he swam across the English Channel with the money.

“I thought it was kind of fable at the time, but now I think I’m tempted to believe it,” she said.

According to his sister, who lives in Birmingham, Hale left England when he was 17 years old and never returned home until early this month.

“We last saw each other when he left England. He didn’t come back for my parents’ funerals and we only communicated by telephone over the past years.”

Hale’s sister said she was torn apart by the news of her brother’s disappearance and his alleged fraudulent dealings. “I didn’t know anything much about his business. All I knew was that he was a financial adviser. I have no idea where he would have gone. My mind is gone over trying to figure out what’s happened.”

When he left South Africa, Hale made a brief stop at his sister’s place on July 10 and left on July 13.

“I am disgusted at what has happened. He is my only brother, but I never really knew him. I was hoping we would get to know each other while he was here, but he left and did not tell me where he was going … [he] said he was on holiday.”

She said she discovered about her brother’s disappearance when Hale’s wife and employees phoned her to ask about his whereabouts.

The Channel crossing tale isn’t the only one to emerge about Hale. As more people who invested with Hale come forward, a man who claims to have lost more than R300 000, says Hale served in the Rhodesian Army after he left Britain.

Hale’s disappearance has made news beyond Pietermaritzburg, with the Birmingham Mail and The Times of London running stories about his flight.

The Great Train Robbery is the name given to a £2,6 million train robbery committed on August 8, 1963, at Bridego railway bridge in Buckinghamshire, England. The bulk of the stolen money was not recovered. Although the gang members were arrested, some of them escaped from prisons and fled to other countries. One of the more notorious gang members, Ronnie Biggs, went to Paris where he acquired new identity papers and underwent plastic surgery before he moved to Melbourne, Australia. He later escaped to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where he was finally caught. He is currently ill in prison and was recently refused parole.

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